The New Arts of Persuasion: Contemporary Media, Communications, and Rhetoric

  Reference Shelf

Assignments, Fall 2000

Schedule of weekly assignments, learning activities, and exercises.

Assignment 1. Due 9/21: According to ancient experts, a key element of communications success is the character or personality of the message sender. For example, Aristotle claimed that if you want to persuade an audience, you must at least seem to be congenial, knowledgeable, and of good character.  Does this claim hold true today? Does the character of an artist or entertainer, for example, affect your appreciation of his performance? Post your response in HyperNews--citing an example from journalism, arts and entertainment, business, or politics.

Assignment 2. Due 9/21: "Who's the Sender? What's the Message?" Review the material on the Shannon-Weaver (S-M-C-R) communication model. Then select any message from any medium (a TV commercial, an office memo, a website, a billboard, etc.) and break it down into its SMCR components (sender, receiver, etc.). Does this analysis yield any unexpected or noteworthy insights? Is the message effective? What is its best feature? Its main weakness? Post your analysis in HyperNews.

Assignment 3. Due 9/28: Choose one of the assignments below (make sure it's the proper competency) and post your comments via HyperNews.

AL-F: Analyze a TV talk show or game show using either the Shannon-Weaver (SMCR) communication model or a semiotic approach. Who's the real audience for these programs--the people in the studio or the viewer at home? What sorts of codes and audience-manipulation strategies are involved.

HC-D: Which modern media are high in noise? Which are high in feedback? Which are highest in "interactivity" (i.e., reciprocity between sender and receiver)? 

WW: Which of the following channels (phone, email, voice mail, fax) do you use to send and receive messages at work? Which do you prefer and why?

Assignment 4. Due 9/28. (choose one of the following topics and post your comments in HyperNews). 
  • Use whatever insights you gain from reviewing McLuhan to analyze an advertising message or public media event (such as a televized press conference or news report). To what extent does the medium characterize or modify the message and shape its effects?
  • Apply the insights of Barthes or other semioticians to "decode" an advertising image or "deconstruct" a TV talk show or commercial website.
  • As the media for reporting news has changed--from live speech (the ancient Greeks used a relay of messengers to send war news from the front lines to the polis) to print to photography to radio to TV and the Internet--have our attitudes and reactions to the news changed too? In what ways?

Assignment 5. Due Oct 5: After reviewing relevant material on Typography, Layout, and Graphic Design, select an interesting or original example of page design (e.g., a website, a book jacket, or any visual medium that includes text), identify its main strengths and weaknesses, and critique its overall effectiveness. Post your remarks via HyperNews.

Assignment 6. Due Oct 12: What are the principle differences--in style, in appearance, in organization, in content--between textbooks (or newspapers, or magazines, or live oral presentation) today and thirty years ago? What has been gained, and lost, through these changes?  Record your impressions in HyperNews .

Assignment 7. Due Oct 19: Find a website, database, or some other information source that publishes difficult or complex information and (using  HyperNews) critique its overall effectiveness or suggest some improvements. 

  Questions:  David L. Simpson ( 
The School for New Learning, DePaul University, Chicago, IL 60604